Eirene (goddess of peace)

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Eirene with Plutus, Roman copy after Kephisodotos

Eirene ( Greek Εἰρήνη ) is the deified peace in Greek mythology . The deity is one of the Horen and a daughter of the god father Zeus . She encounters individually as the female genius of peace. It was worshiped, praised by poets and represented by the fine arts from antiquity to the 19th century. The female first name Irene and the male first name Irenäus are derived from Eirene.

Origin and meaning

The word Eirene probably has pre-Greek roots, but this is not certain. Eirene is the daughter of Zeus and Themis . She is a sister of the Horen Eunomia and Dike . She is considered the personification of peace and corresponds to the goddess Pax in Roman mythology . With their descent it is expressed that peace finds its origin in appropriate power (Zeus) with just laws (Themis). With the assignment of her sisters Dike (as the personification of “law” and “justice”) and Eunomia (as the embodiment of the “legal order”) the importance of “law” and “order” for the continuance of peace is underlined. The blessings of the Eirene are extolled by the poets.

Cultic worship

Eirene stands for a powerful political ideal, according to which trade and politics are pushing for contractual security. After the peace treaty of 374 BC It was also sacred after the Panhellenic Conference in Sparta, with the participation of Dionysius I of Syracuse and the Persian Great King, a comprehensive security order, a general peace (Greek κοινή εἰρήνη / koiné eiréne), for the entire eastern Mediterranean had been. The Attic orator Isocrates (436–338 BC) reports that no other agreement has benefited his city so much:

"[...] a peace that changed relations between Athens and the Spartans so much that we have made sacrifices for Eirene every year since that day until today, because no other treaty has ever been so beneficial for our city."

- Isocrates

Plutarch (approx. 40–120 AD) reports that already after Kimon's victory on Eurymedon in 466 BC An Eiren altar was built. It was the decisive victory over the Persians. This early construction of the altar has been questioned in part. The goddess of peace was probably already in the 5th century BC. Private sacrifices made. This follows from a remark in the Aristophaneic comedy The Peace (Eirene) that the goddess did not want to see bloody sacrifices. The festival of the Eirene was on 15/16. Hekatombaion (July / August) celebrated. It was the day of Synoikia , the amalgamation of the small Attic states after the founding legend of Theseus . This proves the great importance of the Eirene cult.

Reception in the arts

The sculpture of Kephisodot shows the intimate relationship between peace and prosperity.


Fine arts

Eirene is shown as a young woman with the childlike Plutos and a cornucopia on her arm, which is supposed to symbolize the blessing effect of peace. Little Plutos embodies financial and economic well-being, it thrives in the security of deified peace. Other attributes of the Eirene are a palm or olive branch and ears of wheat . Eirene was occasionally depicted on vases with wings and a herald's staff ( kerykeion ). 362 BC Eirene was depicted with plutos and cornucopia on Panathenaic price amphoras , in which the state provided the oil for the competition winners.

One of the most famous representations was the Eirene by the Greek sculptor Kephisodotos , which has come down to us in numerous Roman marble copies. Research today assumes that the movement was originally made of bronze. The statue of Eirene is probably after the introduction of the cult around 374 BC. BC, perhaps also after the renewal of the Panhellenic Peace in the year 371 BC. She wears a heavy Doric peplos , which was no longer common in the first half of the 4th century. It gives the goddess a solemn habit and at the same time represents a consciously employed classicism. She holds the little Plutos and a cornucopia on her left arm and in her raised right a herald's staff or a scepter. Eirene's head inclination towards the little boy and his turning towards the quiet female figure express the intimate relationship between peace and prosperity. The original was placed on the classical Agora of Athens near the monument of the Phylenheroen :

"According to the statue of the eponyms there are statues of gods, Amphiaraos and Eirene with the boy Plutos in their arms."

- Pausanias


Eirene is also the title character of the 421 BC. The comedy written in BC, The Peace of the poet Aristophanes : The god of war Polemus has banished Eirene into a deep hole that is filled with stones. He now rules alone instead of the gods who have withdrawn to higher regions because of the noise of war. Eirene is rescued by the wine grower Trygaios. A hastily summoned choir of peasants, traders, craftsmen and metalworkers helps him pull the goddess of peace out of the hole with ropes and winches, while Polemos is distracted. Then the new-found peace is described. A big cult festival is held for Eirene and the winemaker Trygaios marries Opora , the goddess of the autumn harvest blessing. The armaments manufacturers are ruined and pull out sullenly. The choir extols the joys of country life. The juxtaposition of cultic seriousness and sexual allusions gives the comedy its wit.


After the Thirty Years' War , Christoph Abraham Walther created a representation of the goddess of peace Eirene for the base of the Peace Fountain in Dresden in 1649/1650 . After the victorious battle at Kahlenberg against the Turks, in which the Saxon Elector Johann Georg III. had participated, the Eiren sculpture was replaced by a Victoria sculpture by Conrad Max Süssner .

The Italian composer Attilio Ariosti (1666–1729) wrote the Singspiel Mars und Irene around 1703 , the libretto for it comes from Christian Reuter .

A high baroque sculpture Eirene by Giovanni Giuliani from 1705 stands in the stairwell of the Liechtenstein City Palace in Vienna.

The queen cantata sounds, you timpani! Sound out trumpets! by Johann Sebastian Bach ( BWV 214) is a secular cantata that was performed on December 8, 1733 for the birthday of the Archduchess and Polish Queen Maria Josepha of Austria . The movements were partly used by Bach in the Christmas Oratorio with changed text and minor musical adjustments . Four ancient goddesses praise the queen. The goddess of peace "Irene" was cast with a tenor .


Brandenburg Gate

Eirene with a palm branch and a laurel wreath on the parapet relief of the Brandenburg Gate

The attic relief of the Brandenburg Gate has the theme "The procession of the goddess of peace". The designs for this come mainly from the painter and academy director Christian Bernhard Rode . Schadow has revised the designs and supervised the stonemasons during the execution. In the center of the relief above the aisle are symbols of peace and friendship. The goddess of peace Eirene stands on the edge of a triumphal chariot. With her right hand she supports herself on the edge of the wagon, which is adorned with a laurel garland. She holds a palm branch in one hand and a laurel wreath in the other. Your car is pulled by four erotes . The goddess of victory Nike stands to the right and holds a tropaion .


Antonio Canova began work on a goddess Eirene on behalf of the Rumjancev family in 1811 . He portrayed the goddess of peace as a woman with two wings. She leans with her right arm on a column on which the dates of peace treaties are carved, and holds a kerykeion in her left hand . She kicks a snake with her left foot. The statue was not completed until 1814 and first exhibited in Rome, it is now in Kiev.

19th century

The Peace (Eirene), oil painting by Ludwig Knaus, before 1888

Ludwig Knaus (1829–1910) painted the goddess of peace with wings and a flower basket in his left hand. She hovers over two putti and scattered flowers. The painting was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York, by Jakob Heinrich Schiff in 1888 .

In 1893 a sculpture of the goddess of peace Eirene was placed on the gable of the old town hall of Isen . The sculptor Max Heilmaier (1869–1923) created electro-plastic as his first significant work.

The goddess of peace is depicted on the Swiss black coins in circulation, while the more belligerent Helvetia is depicted on the franc coins in circulation. The “Irene”, the goddess of peace, is also depicted on the gold vreneli coins .


  • Erika Simon : Eirene and Pax. Goddesses of Peace in Antiquity (= meeting reports of the Scientific Society at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. Volume 24, No. 3). Steiner, Wiesbaden / Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-515-05181-3 .

Individual evidence

  1. See Erika Simon: Eirene and Pax , 1988, p. 7
  2. Hesiodos theogonia 901 f .; Pindar Olympia 13, 6 ff.
  3. Bakchylides frg. 4; Euripides Supplices 448 ff .; Menandros frg. 556
  4. Wolfgang Fauth: Art. Eirene , in: Der kleine Pauly, Vol. 2, 1979, Col. 216
  5. ↑ In some cases the year 371 BC is also mentioned. In which this peace agreement was renewed again.
  6. a b Sascha Kansteiner , Lauri Lehmann, Bernd Seidensticker and Klaus Stemmer (eds.): Famous sculptors and bronze foundries of antiquity in words and pictures . De Gruyter, Berlin 2007, p. 80
  7. Isocrates Or. 15, 109 f .; see. also Cornelius Nepos Timothy 2, 1–2
  8. Plutarch Kimon 13
  9. Aristophanes, Eirene 1019 f., More on this below.
  10. ^ Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker: Greek Gods Teaching , Third Volume, 1862, p. 222
  11. ^ Pausanias I, 8, 2
  12. ^ Georg Dehio: Handbook of German Art Monuments: Bezirke Berlin , 1964, p. 72
  13. Konstantin J. Lappo-Danilevskij von Böhlau: Feeling for the beautiful. JJ Winckelmann's influence on literature and aesthetic thinking in Russia , 2007, p. 192 f.

Web links

Commons : Eirene  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Goddess of Peace  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations